pperseverence, prayer, presence, priorities, Self Care, sin, Spiritual Dryness, Spiritual Health, Spiritual Warfare, Time, Try?

“Got to pray just to make it today”

If prayer is the most powerful thing we can do as human beings, in fact by is an instinctive response, yet why is it something we all struggle to do?

It is said if you want to make your congregation feel guilty “talk about prayer”.

we all know we should do it, but probably none of us does it as much as we should, or even as we would like.

we claim to be too busy, but in reality that is about priorities, we can always make time, but the truth is we don’t always.

-Made more ironic by the fact that when we actually are able to pray, it often feels good, and I often end up asking myself “why don’t I do this more often?”

The illusion of to busy, or too tired, or a distraction there are so many things that just pull us away for a few seconds, and we never get around to doing that important thing of actually praying.

Intending to pray is not actually the same as praying.

Then as I began to think more about prayer, not only is it hard sometimes to do, we need to make the effort, grasp the moment and maybe even do that unfashionable word of self discipline/Spiritual discipline, to challenge ourselves to do that which we know we should.

Yet I wonder too, how often we don’t pray because we are comfortable and the urgency or necessity to pray doesn’t really grab us, we think we’ll be okay and our comfortable western lives often cushion us to forget our dependence on God.

Even theological truths of lost eternity or human compassion don’t always force us to our knees until God has our hearts fully, and paradoxically, if we don’t pray we never give God our hearts or let him have ours.

I think the real reason the Church in the west is failing is actually because Christians aren’t praying. God says “You have not because you ask not”. Jesus talks about us being like “salt”, the idea is to make us thirty for God, and yet too much of the Church seems comfortable and complacent.

I think too, we struggle to pray because of fear and lack of faith, we fear disappointment, we fear getting our hopes raised -even sometimes we fear God answering our prayer. I remember that terrified moment when I felt “wow, God is actually real” as he answers prayer shocks and shakes us from our complacency.

The pain too of seemingly unanswered prayer, when heaven seems to be silent, and times of suffering and confusion can cause us to struggle too, and ask where are you God.

Too often we think that in the Christian life we will always get a charmed life and always have a parking space, where in reality it is tough, confusing and painful.

Often too our own sense of guilt, apathy, sin, pride can all keep us away from God’s loving arms, these times when perhaps it is easier to run away from God is the exact time we need to instead run to him.

For me, one of the best ways to keep me praying has been personal accountability, over the last 20ish years -sometimes more regularly than others- I have had some great guys who I have met up with too pray, and without that companionship on the journey I don’t think I’d have made it this far.

Also, I need to be reminded that prayer works, that God answers, my soul needs to HEAR the stories of peoples encounters with God, or prayers answered and God speaking. we need these stories to spur us on. Yet we also need to TELL those stories too when God meets and speaks to us, answers our prayers, we need to share it too.

So, the challenge for us all is let’s not just talk about prayer, as though it is a good thing to do.

Let us not even intend to do it.

Let us be people that actually pray.

Spiritual Dryness, Water

water always wins.

I remember in very boring geography lesson hearing about a phenomenon known as the “flash flood”, when desert ground becomes so hardened that when the waters fall, rather than being absorbed and rehydrating the earth the rain simply bounces off the ground and floods.

This happens become the ground has become so hardened that it cannot absorb the water any-more, and although the people are crying out for rain, their soil is not ready or able to cope with it.

The water actually doesn’t fix the problem, if anything it makes it worse.

Yet what does bring that change is that gentle soaking, that gradual rehydrating, that gradually gets absorbed almost one drop at a time.

The rocky ground becomes soft and fertile again not in some miraculous transition but gradually drop by drop the earth begins to soften, most of this will be perceptibly slow and almost unnoticeable, but when this happens the ground is transformed and life can grow and flourish within this soil.

I blogged a while back about the verse from Job about “the scent of water”, that just the tiniest amount of water, can cause spaws of life energised from seemingly dead tree trunks.

Water is powerful, it brings life and restoration, rejuvenates and transforms, even a little can make a powerful difference.

Water is clever, it finds a way where there is no way, it can break through the toughest of substances not by noisy battering but persistent pressure, and finding that place that will allow it access.

The flash flood show the power of water coming together, but its power is often patient and cumulative, water works often unseen in often in the area of seeming insignificance or triviality

As I thought about water, I thought about evangelism for the thirsty people, some may want to drive into the water, put their head into in and gulp, gulp and gulp… where-as others may have lips so dry and throats so parched that all they can manage at first are tiny rehydrating sips.

It doesn’t matter how they in-take the fluid but that they drink.

we traditionally think about evangelism as the downpour, but it is often the faithful constistant work of the Kingdom, the gradual rehydration and continued hydration that actually births new, healthy and sustained life.

As sometimes we are called to be faithfully a rehydrating presence where the Kingdom is slowly seeping into our communities drip by drip, scent by scent, often unnoticeable, often too seeming ineffective, tempting to leap in and “throw a bucket of water over it all” rather than trust the patient work of faithful Holy Spirit, whose word does not return to him void but accomplishes that which it was purposed for.

Yet the bucket of water approach does little to help rehydration, it seems as though mainly its purpose was to make us feel better.

The slow faithful work of the drips restoring life, may not appear as dramatic, but actually it is more likely to produce a lasting flourish life. A downpour works for the immediate, but what happens next, do we just wait for the next down pour, and how thirsty will we be by then.

we often forget that there is an Emmaus Road (a gradual realisation of who Christ was) as well as a Damascus Road (and instant blinding light conversion) a not every person will come to Christ through the big, the noisy and the dramatic, but often gradually come to faith slowly as part of a lengthy journey.

As someone impatient, I am likely to be the one wanting to throw the bucket of water, and need to learn to be, to trust and to “let our light shine before people that they may see our good work and glorify our father who is in heaven”.

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean,but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop” said Mother Teresa. The truth is our bit matters, our drip in the economy of God makes up the whole picture of Gods redemptive and transforming desire for his world.

Writing this blog I came across a quote from Dorothy Day, one of my spiritual heroes, she said: “What is the sense of our small effort?” They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time’ -too often we are impatient for signs of fruit, and yet God is building not for show but to last and endure.

The problem is that too often we aren’t people who are being and bringing that water of life, and our Churches sadly at times become something of a barren desert, in dire need of water. we are the hope of the world had yet we fail to fill ourselves with this “living water” Jesus said “whoever drinks the water that I give them will never thirst again, indeed it will becoming a spring rising up within him to eternal life”.

Have we allowed Christ to quench our thirst? To rehydrate our land? Too often we lack that life giving water, we dry out, and need to be filled again and again. Scripture talks about “go on be being filled” the language is of a tickly cough that can’t be resolved, you just need to keep drinking.

As I though of this image of Church, needing to be filled with water to share its water with a dry and arid world, I thought about a sponge, to often sponges are slightly wet, enough to wipe a table clean, but not enough really to do anything with, a sponge can be slightly dipped in water to make it a bit more useful, but in order to be full of water, it needs to soak in the water, for the water to permeate every pour and absorb every ounce of dryness, this absorption takes time but is the only way for the spounge to loose its dryness and its rigidity.

Another image I thought of water the perpetual overflow, like the baptistery at Salisbury Cathedral, water is alive, if it is not allowed to move and flow it becomes undrinkable, stagnant ad horrible, but whist it keeps on moving it remains fresh and life giving. I thought this is a picture of the Church, we need to be in the place of habitual overflow, staying alive and preventing stagnation, to allow the water to pour constantly and habitually into our communities to keep them hydrated and so that life can be birthed and flourish. To be effective in bringing that water of life, we first need to be filled, not just functionally filled, but so that every fibre of the sponge is filled with water.

Learning to be that constant Kingdom presence not just the occasional downpour, good news all the time, refreshing and water-filled all the time, as the water allows life to develop,grow and flourish.